Saturday Six #29: The Surprises of Parenting

I wanted to be a parent for as long as I can remember, and I fully recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones who was able to realize this dream.

Being a parent is one of the most tiring, thankless, neverending jobs. Actually, I like to think of it more as a “practice” than a “job.” There’s a lot of trial and error, backtracking, and random moments of celebration when something finally works. And whereas I used to be confounded by people who didn’t wish to become parents, I see that both choices definitely have value. Being a parent leaves a person with the dregs of time, energy, focus, money, and at the end of the day, perhaps even sanity. But, for me, I still count the reward as completely worthwhile.

When I dreamed of becoming a parent, I imagined lots of sweet, tender moments that, to be honest, haven’t really come to fruition. I thought my daughter(s) would never leave the house without perfectly styled and beribboned hair, and I thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom who always had after-school snacks ready when they got home. I thought the holidays would be full of peaceful moments of gazing at the tree together, and in my imagination, icing cookies never came with a mess.

Of course, life rarely turns out as we imagine it will, but even though these smaller “dreams” never came true, parenting has been filled with a lot of unexpected delights.

Newborn Snuggles. No one ever told me how often I would get to sit while a newborn slept on my shoulder. These were hands-down my favorite moments when they were tiny, and I also became very adept at wearing them in slings and carriers so I could enjoy their snuggles while I managed to get a few things done. I used to joke that if I didn’t love my baby carriers so much, I wouldn’t have had so many babies!

Sharing Hobbies. My oldest daughter loves to read, and a couple years ago, she even started to pen her own stories. Ironically, she’s the same age I was when I fell in love with writing. I’m not sure if it will stick with her the way it stuck with me, but for now, I’m thoroughly enjoying the fact that we both love to write. 

Sports. I had no idea how proud – and emotional – I would become watching them play competitive sports. From basketball to softball to karate competitions, seeing their skills and hard work and being a part of a team has been a greater joy than I ever imagined. I think part of that comes from my tremendous experience playing high school tennis, and I hope that they will also get to participate in something similar.

Friends. When they were small, I used to feel a twinge of jealousy thinking about them making friends someday. A part of me wanted to keep them all to myself! But now I love seeing whom they gravitate to, and guessing which will remain steadfast friends for a long time, and which may be around only for a season or two. And watching them make friends confirms to me that they are good, likeable kids!

Style. I loved picking out their clothes when they were babies and toddlers, and I hated the thought of giving that up. But it’s been just as fun to watch them develop their own styles and their own tastes, even if they are far different from my own. It’s a microcosm of watching four kids, raised in the same house, turn into four completely different people.

The Dirty Trick. Each milestone means something else left behind, and I used to call this “The Dirty Trick of Parenting.” I got so excited to watch them accomplish something new, I all but forgot it meant I wouldn’t see the old anymore until I realized it with a painful pang. But I’ve come to love the Dirty Trick because it softens the blow. It keeps you waiting and watching. And it makes saying goodbye a little easier. But I’m still going to call it what it is: dirty.

Of course, parenting also comes with its share of “bad” surprises, like close sporting events that send me pacing and near tears, the amount of unpleasant bodily fluids I’ve had to touch and clean up, or the intractability of my youngest two. But for the snuggles I can still squeeze out of my growing kids, it’s worth every challenge.

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